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Ann Murdy | profile | all galleries >> La Feria del Huipil y Café en Cuetzalan, Puebla 2013 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

La Feria del Huipil y Café en Cuetzalan, Puebla 2013

In October 2013 I traveled to Cuetzalan, Puebla to document the 50th anniversary of the Feria del Huipil and Café. Cuetzalan is known as a pueblo magico (magical village). It is located in the northern part of the state. Its name translates to the place of the quetzals. This charming and rustic town is built on a slope with white washed buildings, tile roofs, wooden doors and window frames with hilly cobblestone streets. During the first week of October the feria (fair) takes place. This fiesta also coincides with the celebration of the patron saint, San Francisco de Asís on October 4th. Don Agustín Márquez Sánchez who was the municipal presidente in 1963 founded the feria. The purpose of the feria is to showcase the music, dancing, traditions and customs of Cuetzalan. The first Reina de la Feria Huipil was Petronila Arroyo Alvarado who was attendance at this feria along with eighteen other past Reinas del Huipil.

For the 2013 competition there were ten young girls between the ages of fifteen through twenty that participated in the contest. These young girls are known as “doncellas” which means maiden or “siuapilmej” in Nahautl. Each of them were required to give a three minute speech in Nahuatl and three minutes in Spanish. During their presentation they spoke about the customs in their respective village, their feast days, celebrations, dances and food products. They also spoke about their traje (the indigenous clothing), which is woven, on a backstrap loom that they were wearing. They were judged for their knowledge of native culture. All the contestants wore white skirts with a belt tied around their waist, a white quexquémitl (shawl) over a blouse and a copete or "maxtahuatl" in Nahuatl (headdress) on their heads. They can only wear necklaces and earrings for jewelry, which are traditional for their traje. They aren’t allowed to wear any make-up or shoes.

Each of the contestants was a given an individual baton with ribbons of different colors. As each contestant’s name was announced La Reina Huipil 2012 escorted them to the stage one by one so they could make their presentation. The Taukankej (Alcaldes) from the village dressed in black ponchos wearing, white pants and straw hats were the judges for the contest.

After all the girls completed their presentation, the Alcalde Mayor and the other alcaldes went to work deciding who was going to be La Reina Huipil 2013. The Alcalde Mayor held up the baton with the green ribbons that belonged to Milaura López Vásquez. She appeared to be in shock when her baton was chosen as she moved forward to the edge of the stage. She was then escorted off the stage and taken to La Casa Cultura where she would change her traje. Her new traje consisted of a black wool skirt, a huipil with the quetzal bird embroidered on it and satin ribbons with the colors of the rainbow down her back. When she returned to the plaza in front of the church she was sitting on a throne carried by the alcaldes. Once her throne was placed onto the stage she was crowned with a huipil that was placed over her copete. She was then given a tonahuatil (baton) by the presidente and a floral necklace was placed over her neck.

Once the coronation ceremonies were concluded the dancing began. Cuetzalan is known for its ritual of the Voladores, an indigenous dance from pre-Hispanic times. La Danza de los Voladores originated in Cuetzalan. There are nineteen groups that perform here. The dance of the Voladores is dedicated to the worship of the sun and the pre-Hispanic calendar. It is both a religious and cosmic ceremony. The dance represents the universe, life, the environment and the relationship with the gods. It is also designed to understand the importance of nature, animals and human existence. The dance is dedicated to the Nahua god Tonctecutli. Before the voladores climbed to the top of a 60 feet pole that is in front of the Parroquia de San Francisco they danced around it twice. The pole is a form of communication between the earth and heaven. This is a spiritual dance devoted to the four cardinal points. The amount of voladores that climbed to the top of the pole varied with each group. I saw groups ranging from five to nine dancers climb to the top. Each group has a leader who is known as the Caporal. He plays a five-tone reed flute and small double-headed drum on a 15” by 15” platform at the top of the pole. He plays to the four cardinal directions where each of the other four voladores are sitting on a quadrangle known as a tecomate. The caporals did back bends along with dancing vigorously on this small platform while they played their musical instruments. Once the Caporals had finished their musical performance the four voladores got ready to fall backwards with a rope tied around their waists. Slowly they began their thirteen laps around the pole as they moved gracefully in the air until they reached the ground. The thirteen rotations around the pole by the four voladores equals fifty-two which represents the fifty-two years of their ancient calendar. In Cuetzalan men, teenage girls and little boys are voladores. The ages of the little boys seemed to range from seven to twelve years old.

One of the other dances that took place to honor la Reina Huipil 2013 was la Danza de los Quetzales. This dance comprised of fifty-two songs is the most representative of Cuetzalan. The dancers perform in two separate lines. The caporal for this dance performs in the middle as he goes from one cardinal point to the other. This is a majestic dance full of color as the dancers wear huge, colorful penachos (head pieces) with the quetzal bird placed in the center of the head piece.

In total there were seven groups performing at once after the coronation ceremonies had ended. There were two Danza de los Quetzales performing, Los Voladores, La Danza de los Santiagos, La Danza de los Negritos and another group where the men dressed in charro clothing and the one female dancer dressed in the style of the China Poblana. This last group carried a huge papier-mache bull with them while they performed. Overall, it was a joyous and lively occasion to witness all these activities going on at once!

Cuetzalan is also known for its back strap weaving. The indigenous women in the village wear a lightweight quechquémitl (a cape like shoulder garment from the pre-conquest era) in either white cotton or synthetic fabric that is woven on a back strap loom. Underneath it is a square neck, capped sleeved cotton blouse with woven designs of animals around the neckline. The traje is completed with a full white cotton skirt that is held up with a cinturon (belt). I saw girls; younger, middle aged and older women dress in this style. The indigenous traje for the men was a white long sleeved cotton shirt and pants with interesting wrap around leather laces on their sandals. While I was there I went to Taller Mazatzin founded by Pedro Martín Concepción in the village of Cuautmazaco just outside of Cuetzalan. Pedro’s grandfather was also a weaver. Pedro wanted to encourage men to weave as well as women and there are fifteen men and fifteen women in his taller. His taller uses linen, silk and one hundred percent cotton for their weavings. His taller is preserving the Nahua, Otomí and Totonaca roots. He has researched the iconography for the traditional quechquémitl and has been awarded several national awards by FONART. He also works with Lydia Lavin for her contemporary line of fashion in Mexico.

Another stop made within town was the candle workshop of Doña Eugenia Méndez Nava. This maestra makes the most amazing wax candles I have ever seen in all of my visits to Mexico. They were inside the church as well as being used in the processions. Some of the candles were over six feet tall. Most of them are a huge circular disk with a saint done in relief placed in the middle of the circle. They are elaborately decorated with wax flowers as well. This is the only place in all of Puebla that these candles are made. They were absolutely exquisite.

Not only is Cuetzalan a beautiful place to take in dancing and cultural events one can also visit the Xoxoctic orchid and butterfly botanical garden, waterfalls, caverns and the pre-Columbian pyramids at Yohualichan. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this Pueblo Magico.
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Milaura López Vásquez La Reina Huipil 2013
Milaura López Vásquez La Reina Huipil 2013
The Contestants onstage
The Contestants onstage
Young Contestant
Young Contestant
Milaura is announced the winner
Milaura is announced the winner
The Competition
The Competition
Girl in Concurso
Girl in Concurso
Las Reinas del Pasado
Las Reinas del Pasado
Contestant in Concurso
Contestant in Concurso
Los Alcaldes
Los Alcaldes
Placing La Reina's throne on the stage
Placing La Reina's throne on the stage
Alcalde listening to presentation
Alcalde listening to presentation
El Presidente with the Reina Huipil 2013 and 1963
El Presidente with the Reina Huipil 2013 and 1963
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